English teaching book covers

Best English Teaching Books in 2021 πŸ“š

I’ll show you the top books that should be on every English language teacher’s bookshelf, along with 50 books broken down by every language subskill you’ll want to master, and 17 modern coursebooks.

When I did the CELTA course at International House Mexico, I collected many recommendations of books for TEFL/TESL teachers from my CELTA tutors. I’ve carefully categorized these recommendations below and pulled out the top four books that every English language teacher should consider.

Scanned PDFs of these books can be downloaded from Z-Library (if that’s your thing) or purchased from Amazon and others.

The 4 Best TEFL/TESL Books

Here are some of the best books that are useful for any new English language teacher. One is on language awareness (a great grammar book), two are on language teaching methodology (both are popular books from leading expertsβ€”consider getting one or the other), and the fourth book I personally found fascinating and unique.

Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2nd Edition by M. Parrott

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  • Author: Martin Parrott; 479 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition (2010)
  • Rating: Amazon β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.6), Goodreads β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.1)

Most of us starting out with English language teaching are scared of grammar. As native speakers we often only understand the advanced stuff intuitively, and can’t always give clear explanations of the finer details. If that’s you, this book will be your best friend, since it explains everything you need for teaching in great detail.

This is an extremely thorough look at English grammar. And since it’s written for English language teachers, it includes sections on typical problems learners might face as well as classroom activities.

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Note that Grammar for English Language Teachers follows British English rules. The minor grammar differences across British and American English aren’t usually an issue, but if this is a concern for you, consider Grammar for Teachers: A Guide to American English for Native and Non-Native Speakers, 2nd Edition by A. DeCapua.

Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching, 3rd Edition by J. Scrivener

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  • Author: Jim Scrivener; 416 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 3rd edition (2011)
  • Rating: Amazon β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.6), Goodreads β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.3)

This is among the most popular guides to teaching English, and it’s one of two top methodology books you’ll find on every CELTA recommended reading list. Scrivener covers all the practical information you’ll need to begin your journey as an English teacher. The book also has many examples of activities that can be used in EFL/ESL classrooms.

The accompanying DVD includes a full lesson being taught, demonstrations of teaching techniques, and photocopiable activity worksheets.

The Practice of English Language Teaching, 5th Edition by J. Harmer

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  • Author: Jeremy Harmer; 446 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 5th edition (2015)
  • Rating: Amazon β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.6), Goodreads β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.0)

This bible of English language teaching first came out nearly 40 years ago. Now in its 5th edition, it’s the other classic textbook on ELT methodology that you’ll find on every CELTA recommended reading list. It’s good for teachers who are just starting and it’s also a great reference for veteran teachers.

The accompanying DVD includes classroom videos of experienced teachers in the UK, Mexico, and Turkey.

Learner English: A Teacher’s Guide to Interference and Other Problems, 2nd Edition by M. Swan & B. Smith

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  • Authors: Michael Swan and Bernard Smith; 378 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition (2001)
  • Rating: Amazon β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.7), Goodreads β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… (4.2)

This is a fascinating look at issues people from various backgrounds will typically struggle with when learning English, including differences in sounds, grammar, and more that are likely to trip them up. Nothing else on the subject is as comprehensive and useful.

Each chapter focuses on a different language or language family, and goes into great depth. Following are the included chapters:

  • Dutch speakers
  • Speakers of Scandinavian languages1
  • German speakers
  • French speakers
  • Italian speakers
  • Speakers of Spanish and Catalan
  • Portuguese speakers
  • Greek speakers
  • Russian speakers
  • Polish speakers
  • Farsi speakers
  • Arabic speakers
  • Turkish speakers
  • Speakers of South Asian languages2
  • Speakers of Dravidian languages3
  • Speakers of West African languages4
  • Swahili speakers
  • Malay/Indonesian speakers
  • Japanese speakers
  • Chinese speakers
  • Korean speakers
  • Thai speakers

1 These are Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
2 Covers numerous Indo-Aryan languages from the Indian subcontinent.
3 Covers Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu.
4 The book’s analysis especially applies to people from Nigeria and Ghana.

I highly recommend this book. If you’re a language nerd you might read all the chapters. Otherwise, you’ll still get plenty of value if you read only the one or two chapters most relevant to your English students and the issues they’re likely to face.

Although not as comprehensive, this website by T. Power includes common English pronunciation mistakes by language background. Part two of the book Teaching English Pronunciation by J. Kenworthy also includes similar material.


Want Even More?

Like, a lot more?

If you’re looking for something more specific, check out the listings below. All of the following books have been recommended by CELTA tutors. I’ve categorized them by their topics and the skills they aim to help you teach. In every case I’ve listed their latest editions.

For all of these, I’ve included links to Amazon. If the book is unavailable or overpriced on Amazon, try searching on BEBC. They’re a specialist bookseller of English language teaching materials. You can enter the code IH25 on their site to get a 25% discount.

Books marked with ⭐ were highlighted earlier in this post. Those marked 😎 weren’t highlighted above but are popular bestsellers with more than 200 reviews on Amazon.

Books on English Teaching Methodology & Practice

Books on Specific Language Skills

These include books that aim to improve your ability to teach each of the language skills below, as well as books that will directly help you with teaching (e.g., activity books).

Grammar

Reading

Writing

Listening

Speaking

Pronunciation

Adrian Underhill, author of Sound Foundations, is the creator of the useful sound foundations chart. He also has a fantastic YouTube series on pronunciation skills you should watch.

Punctuation

Vocabulary

Course Books for Adult Learners

The two course books I used during CELTA training were face2face and Cutting Edge. Both are popular British English courses for adult learners, and both cover A1–C1 English proficiency levels in six separate books (starter, elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced).

You can buy individual books from these series on Amazon, etc., but if you’re not yet sure what you need, it might be easier to start at the publishers’ websites (which I’ve linked to below) since modern course books come with student’s books, workbooks, and teacher’s books (along with bundled audio, software, etc.) across many proficiency levels.

Here are the top course books you should consider for British and American English:

British English

American English

Elsewhere, you’ll sometimes see names like New Cutting Edge instead of Cutting Edge, or New English File instead of English File. These were 2nd editions that were predecessors of the newer versions I’ve listed above.


Hopefully this helps you find the perfect books to up your English teaching game.

What books have helped you most in your own English teaching career? What coursebooks have you used in your classrooms, and were they any good? If you have favorites that aren’t on this list, let me know!

Planning to take a CELTA course? Want a top grade? If so, check out my CELTA Pass A example assignments and lesson plans.

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